“It’s weird that we have a gigantic textile industry and every day millions of garments disappear into the incinerator, but we cannot even keep people warm. The fact that we cannot protect human lives is a world upside down,” — Bas Timmer.
After his studies in Fashion Design at ArtEZ in Arnhem, triggered by a personal tragic story after the father of his best friend became homeless and tragically died in the winter cold when forced to sleep outside, Bas Timmer set out on a mission to provide warmth to those in need.
He designed a shelter suit completely made from upcycled and recycled materials, that gets distributed in different places around the world completely free of charge.
The Sheltesuit can be described as a waterproof and windproof coat that can be transformed into a sleeping bag. The high-quality textiles and materials are donated by Dutch and European companies, including TenCate Outdoor Fabrics, 3M and Nomad.
The suit consists of a big hood, integrated scarf, lightweight and warm insulation, big pockets, strong cuffs with windbreakers, zippable sleeping-bag, wind- and waterproof, breathable fabric, a sleeping-bag which can be transformed into a larger warm blanket. It also has an opening at the bottom, in case the user needs to move fast.
During the day the sleeping bag can be stored in the matching backpack. The suits are given to homeless people and refugees for free.
What has been described as a “humanitarian startup” of people helping people (The Dots Magazine), the Sheltersuit Foundation was founded in 2014 to “provide warmth, joy and opportunities to the people in need, from homeless people to refugees”.
Building upon the suit design, a social clothing factory, where volunteers, homeless, unemployed and refugees create full-body protective suits and other products, has been set-up. This workshop further enhances the foundation’s mission by facilitating cultural integration, re-integration into the workforce and employability of their staff of 15 and almost 100 volunteers. In one stroke the foundation actively incentivises education, job coaching, re-integration, food and warmth.
Although it does not solve being homeless, the Sheltersuit does prevent people from freezing to death. In December 2017, in what is its most mediatic and impactful action to date, Sheltersuit partnered with Movement on the Ground by Johnny de Mol and the WakaWaka Foundation to raise 340,000 euros through crowdfunding to give solar powered batteries/ lights, and sheltersuits to 1,150 refugee (including children) in the refugee camps in Lesbos. The accomplished Sheltersuit Fondation’s goal was to give all children and the most vulnerable adults on Lesbos a Sheltersuit.
Living conditions in refugee camps are bad and especially children who fled the war to start a life full of uncertainties are at high risk. For them, the Sheltersuit Foundation conceived of a special suit that allows children to wear it the whole day, to move around and run.
The Sheltersuit Fondation, a stimulating example of the added value of collaboration and of what design can do, inspires, connects and activates people.
When asked about how he felt confidence to realize his idea, how he managed to grow it and have impact, Bas Timmer says in a matter-of-fact tone of voice:
“I don’t know what it is… But I think it is honesty, when an idea comes from the heart. When you want to help others and you do it full time, when you believe you can do everything you set your mind to, and ultimately by asking a lot of questions.“ — Bas Timmer.
The Sheltersuit Fondation has received the German Design Award (2018) and the Public Choice Award at Dutch Design Week (2017).